PARALYMPICS

Damien Vereker of Ireland, left, along with his pilot Sean Hahessy. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Damien Vereker of Ireland, left, along with his pilot Sean Hahessy. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
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The Irish tandem of Damien Vereker and Séan Hahessy have finished eighth in the MB Tandem Individual Pursuit at the Paralympic Games in Rio.

The new pairing finished in a personal best time and national sea level record of 4.20.139 on the opening day of the Games, and their time had them leading for the opening three heats, and putting them within six seconds of competing for bronze.

The standard in this event is up a level with the world record being broken twice, first by the Dutch pairing of ter Schure and Fransen and then by GB’s Bate and Duggleby.

Speaking after their qualifier Hahessy and Vereker had clearly emptied the tank.

“The track here is pretty weird, it’s hard to find your groove, and when you’re riding in zone five it’s even harder,” said Hahessy. “We were hoping for a 4.16 but that’s dependent on conditions. 4.20 is pretty quick. We’re not here for PBs or top 10s; we’re here for a medal.”

While Hahessy may have been disappointed with his time, their time bettered the 4.21.359 he rode with stoker Peter Ryan earlier this year at the World Championships in Montichiari, and was five seconds faster than the phenomenal performance of James Brown and Damien Shaw at the London Paralympic Games. Ireland currently has no indoor velodrome, so for the Irish team to be competitive on the world stage, bettering the national records each time they compete, it is doubly impressive.

Vereker and Hahessy felt the energy of the crowd; Vereker said: “You could hear a big cheer on the start line and hear it all the way around.”